Monday, 18 July 2011

What does the Copa America and a French Language Newspaper Copyright Management Company have in common?

Well they've both been frozen out on-line.  Let me go on:  

As the events of News International's affairs have been unwinding in the public there has been much talk about the influence the media has over what we see and hear - the fact that they can set the agenda.

DR Phillip Lee (Conservative MP) made an interesting point amongst the debate stating that we shouldn't just be looking at traditional media but also newer forms, such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft as many of us (myself included) glean most of our information, news, etc from the internet.  The Lib Dem Voice featured an Opinion piece about this here.  This drew my attention to a curious case in Belgium with regards Google, I don't pretend to know all the details but it appears that a newspaper group (well a newspaper copyright management company - Copiepresse) sued Google after they continuously updated their news section with details from the company's website - allowing people to read part of the story without being subject to the adverts placed on that site etc.  As a result, Google removed the members of Copiepresse from it's searches in order to ensure that they further litigation would not be forthcoming.  

Without knowing the details, despite the overall tone I intended for this piece, I side just about with Google on this, as presumably simply by the story appearing there it drove up traffic to the website, Copiepresse seem to want to have their cake and eat it - hopefully they can reach an agreement between themselves.  However it is worrying that a search engine (on which I personally rely) can just switch off sources in such a way.  This kind of censorship cannot be good for the freedom of information, which, from everything else I've read, Google prides itself on.  Their ongoing battles in China appear to show that they are committed to free speech, although are realistic enough to know which battles they can't win. 

Looking into this media at this particular point in time would just distract from the issue at hand, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be looked at eventually.  No one particular company should have significant influence over the way our country is run, period, but it is also worrying that a particular company could influence what we read just by a slight adjustment to their algorithms.  

Now I'm going to link this to what I was originally planning on writing about (before I read about the above case).  Obviously this may seem like a tedious link but I think it is relevant.  The Copa America is one of the biggest international tournaments in football, it obviously falls below the World Cup, however after that it is up there with the European Championships and the African Cup of Nations for interest.  Yet despite this, the only reference I can find on the BBC Sport's website is a weekly column by the excellent Tim Vickery - who specialises in South American football.  I get the vast majority of my sports news from BBC's sport website as they normally cover everything well enough - although in this case there isn't a score to be found, or even the fixtures despite the detail that these usually go into.  They may not have the rights to broadcast, ESPN do in the UK, however this wouldn't extend to publishing the results amongst the many they do already and the up coming fixtures - if it did then Tim's blog wouldn't be allowed.    

Their leading story at the time of writing is in relation to Carlos Tevez and his possible move to Corinthians, this is a fair enough story, however a quick search under his name on the website doesn't bring up a single mention of the fact that he missed the crucial penalty in Argentina's defeat in the quarter finals against Uruguay.  Given that Paraguay knocked out Brazil in the same stage (also on penalties - amazingly Brazil missing all four they took!) the semi finals have an unfamiliar feel with Peru and Venezuela (who had another shock win against Chile who had performed well in last year's World Cup) taking the remaining two spots.  This unpredictability and the overall strength of the region, in my mind has lead to the competition being quite interesting, it is a shame the BBC doesn't appear to think so.  The cynic in me is wondering if this was a decision made to ensure that it didn't detract attention from the Woman's World Cup (Congratulations to Japan) which they did cover. 

As someone who relies on the BBC for my sports information and Google to follow up on any stories I have read (usually thanks to Twitter) I am disappointed to find that both could be holding back on me and trying to manipulate what I read - not that I would be visiting a French language newspaper, but I would like the choice to!

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